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Day 1: Americans stun Europe, up by three points
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- All week, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger has been peppered with question after agonizing question as to why the Americans have been shelled by the Europeans in five of the last six Ryder Cups.
Azinger simply shrugged it all off as nonsense, insisting that the past didn't matter -- this is a new year and a new team.
Need proof? How about a 5 ½ - 2 ½ lead for the Americans after Day One?
"Well, clearly we haven't led in a long time, so we're real happy about that," said Azinger, who managed to play all 12 of his men on Friday and whose six rookies helped account for 4 ½ of the 5 ½ points. "I was just real proud of everybody. It could have gone either way today. The guys, there were some nice comebacks today. They just played really well."
On paper, the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club looked like the biggest mismatch since piranha versus chum, with Captain Nick Faldo's European squad playing the role of piranha.
• Story: Europe suffers setbacks
• Story Harrington gets going
• Notes: All day from Valhalla
• Story: 'Euros up in spirit'
• Scores: Day one in Kentucky
• Morning recap: USA leads
• Story: Fun equals points for USA
• Story: Day one ends well for USA
What's on paper, however, doesn't matter. If it did, there's no way the Europeans would have been so dominant in recent years. That, as they say, is why they play the games.
And did the Americans ever play the games on Friday.
For the first time since 1991 at Kiawah Island, the Stars and Stripes actually won the morning matches. Before lunch, Azinger's team of engines that could mounted a 3-1 lead over the Europeans, thanks to two wins and two halves.
By the time the afternoon Fourball session was complete with three more U.S. wins, the Day One tally read U.S. 5 ½ -Europe 2 ½.
In the morning foursomes, Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim halved their match with Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson; Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard had an impressive 3 and 2 win over Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey; Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell edged Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, 1 up; and Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk halved their match with Europe's dream-team of Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood.
The afternoon Fourball was much of the same for the Americans. Mickelson and Kim were paired together again and this time the pair took down Harrington and Graeme McDowell, 1 up; Rose and Poulter earned Europe its only win of the day with a 4 and 2 thumping of Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis; Leonard and Mahan dominated Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez on the way to a 4 and 3 victory; and in the anchor match, Boo Weekley and local boy J.B. Holmes halved with Westwood and Soren Hansen.
The Americans were loaded with "for the first time sinces" on Friday. For instance, the U.S. had the lead after Day 1 for the first time since 1995 at Oak Hill. For the first time since 1981 at Walton Heath Golf Club, the U.S. won both the morning and the afternoon session. And, for the first time since 1993 at The Belfry with Corey Pavin and Lanny Wadkins, a U.S. team -- Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard this time around -- won both their matches on Day One. Finally, the three-point advantage for the Americans on opening day is their largest since 1979, when they led by the same margin at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.
Arguably the most exciting match of the morning session also happened to be the first.
To read the remainder of this story, click here.
|SHOT OF THE DAY|
|QUOTE OF THE DAY|
After a shaky start to the morning foursomes for teammates Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan -- bogeys on the first two holes and a 2-down hole in the snap of a finger -- the American duo didn't get flustered. Instead, they got inspired.
Leonard joked afterward that they bogeyed the first two holes on purpose to take the edge off. Whether it was intentional or not, no one can dispute the fact that it was effective.
As quickly as Europeans Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey built their lead, it vanished. After four holes, it was back to all square. By the seventh hole, Leonard and Mahan took a 1-up lead and would never look back on their way to a 3 and 2 victory to put up the first full point of the 37th Ryder Cup.
"It was just a bunch of streaks," explained Mahan, one of six rookies on the U.S. squad. "We were just trying to get ahead, and we did, but we played really well on the back nine here. We missed two short putts there, but we played great today and extremely excited about how we finished."
All in all, Mahan had a pretty powerful way of summing it up.
"Best day of my life, man."
|What they said ...|
SERGIO MYSTIQUE DISAPPEARING?
There will be lots of discussion about Sergio Garcia failing to win either of his two matches Friday and how it might impact the rest of this week. After all, it's the first time in Garcia's Ryder Cup career that he has not won at least one match in either of the first two days of a Ryder Cup.
|Sizing up Sergio|
FACTS AND STATS: DAY ONE OF THE 37TH RYDER CUP
Compiled by Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.
Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim might have found a winning combination together. As it turns out, the whole might be better then the sum of the parts when it comes to Mickelson and Kim. Combined, the two players made 11 birdies in the afternoon fourball competition at the Ryder Cup. The most par-breakers either player has ever made in a round is 10, a feat Mickelson has accomplished seven times in his career. The last time Mickelson made 10 birdies in a round came in the first round of the 2006 BellSouth Classic. Mickelson and Kim earned 1½ points for Team U.S.A. today.
Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood were paired together in the morning foursome matches at the Ryder Cup. Garcia and Westwood finished the round with two straight birdies to save a half point for the Europeans. Prior to the two birdies, Garcia and Westwood played the 15th at 2-over par and then bogeyed the 16th to go 2 down. In their PGA TOUR careers, Garcia and Westwood have made double bogey and two birdies over the final four holes of a round five times when playing alone.
Justin Rose and Ian Poulter were paired together in the morning foursome matches at the Ryder Cup. In the early stages of the match, the pairing seemed to be a good one for European Captain Nick Faldo. The duo played the third hole through the seventh hole by recording three birdies and an eagle. The two stood 3 up at that point, however the American team of Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell came back to win the match. Poulter has never made three birdies and an eagle in a four-hole stretch on the PGA TOUR. Justin Rose, meanwhile, has accomplished the feat three times, with the last time coming during the first round of the 2006 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
THINGS TO WATCH ON SATURDAY
1. Someone to step up for the Europeans in the morning session not named Sergio Garcia or Lee Westwood. The duo accounted for one point on Friday and were left off of Captain Nick Faldo's roster for Saturday morning's foursomes matches. It's the first time in Garcia and Westwood's respective Ryder Cup careers that they will not be playing all five sessions.
2. More of the same from Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan. The pair will be playing together for the third straight set of matches on Saturday morning, this time squaring off against Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell. Leonard and Mahan were sensational on Friday, picking up two points for the U.S.A. in two routs. Will it continue on day two?
3. An inspired Kenny Perry. OK, he halved his match with Jim Furyk in Friday's foursomes, but you know the Kentucky native had his heart set on making this team since it was announced that the Ryder Cup would be played in his home state and wants a win. Can he get it with Furyk against Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson on Saturday morning?